Is This 12-Year-Old Mexican Girl the Next Steve Jobs?

Child Prodigy

New teaching methods are inspiring a young genius in a Mexican town.

Sep 2, 2014 | 04:39 PM

On the southern bank of the Rio Grande River, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, is a small Mexican town with an unlikely resident. The drug war torn town of Matamoros is home to the student with the best SAT score in the nation, and she's only twelve years old.

Paloma Noyola Bueno had been attending José Urbina López Primary School (located next to a dump) for many years before walking into the fifth grade classroom of Sergio Juárez Correa. She had spent the previous years listening as teachers lectured and imparted the standard public school curriculum to rows of desks filled with bored students. The students were expected to absorb the information, memorize it, and regurgitate it for exams. Test scores were low and students were disinterested.

Sergio Juárez Correa knew that something had to change. He became inspired by the teachings of Sugata Mitra, whose studies had shown that students thrive on self-educating with access to technology and computers. Correa pushed the desks out of their straight rows and assembled them into small groups so students could sit together, discuss problems and learn from one another. This approach emphasized teamwork, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, creativity and collaboration: skills that are considered the most sought-after in today's workforce.

Although Paloma had always done well in school, through this new format, her talent and abilities became even more apparent. She received a 921 on her math exam—the highest score in the nation. All of Correa's students' scores shot up and Paloma has become a "media darling" following the article featuring her in Wired Magazine.

Is Paloma the next Steve Jobs? Only time will tell. But for a girl who attends a school that lacks running water and drainage, in a town where residents often go missing and dead bodies frequenly line the streets, she and her teacher are brave inspirations to everyone.

Cover image credit: Andrew O'Reilly/FOX News Latino

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